So, I’ve stumbled upon this really long sentence, and now I’m wondering if it is grammatically correct.

So they figured since I’m a real person and I’m in the movie and I’m actually me and they wanted to use me as me in the actual movie and I didn’t even know yet that I was me in the movie although I did know I was me but I didn’t know I was in the movie, they had better let me know that I was in the movie as me and let me see if after I knew I was me playing me in the movie that I would be okay with being me in the movie as myself now that I knew there was actually a movie with me in it.¹

(I’ve counted 19 simple sentences.)

  • Yes, the sentence is grammatical (you can combine sentences with conjunctions to make new sentences ad infinitum). It might be difficult to understand and stylistically disfavored, but it syntactically follows the rules of English (can you do it grammatically in your native language?). – Mitch Jan 25 '12 at 2:49
  • @Mitch Hm, I think it would be doable. However, believe it or not, it's far more complicated to form complex sentences in Croatian, so even thought I'm a native speaker, I'm not sure if I could do it, or at least if my result would be grammatically correct. :) – Šime Vidas Jan 25 '12 at 2:57
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    All the sentence boils down to is heavy use of really simple conjunctions such as "and", "but", "although", and "that". As long as Croatian has them, which it does, the sentence can be translated into it 1:1. – RegDwigнt Jan 25 '12 at 11:34
  • +1 Simple but interesting question. – Kris Oct 13 '12 at 6:20

Yes, the sentence is grammatically correct; here is a syntax diagram (parse tree) for the sentence: Parse tree

  • Corrections welcome. – MetaEd Jan 25 '12 at 22:00
  • What tool did you use to make that? – Mitch Jan 25 '12 at 22:36
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    My reaction – Šime Vidas Jan 25 '12 at 22:39
  • @Mitch Google Drawing. There is diagramming software out there but I couldn't find one that would install, operate, and/or choke that sentence down. – MetaEd Jan 25 '12 at 23:51
  • @MetaEd: See the meta question Tools for parsing (diagramming) especially phpSyntaxTree. All you have to do is edit the parens in the parsing and it does all the drawing for you. – Mitch Jan 26 '12 at 3:01

It “untangles” intelligibly, if that’s what you’re wondering. Obviously you wouldn’t ordinarily use a run-on sentence like this one in formal writing, but it’s sometimes done for artistic purposes, as this clearly is.

  • I would just like to know if it's grammatically correct. Is it legal to join all these simple sentences like that? – Šime Vidas Jan 25 '12 at 0:06
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    Šime Vidas: There's no "law" of grammar that limits the number of clauses that can be strung together or the number of subclauses any one of them can have or the depth of nesting of clauses or the length you can write without having to add punctuation marks such as commas so the short answer which this isn't is that the sentence is "legal". – FumbleFingers Jan 25 '12 at 0:15
  • @FumbleFingers I have the odd feeling that you wrote that reply as one sentence on purpose. :P – Šime Vidas Jan 25 '12 at 0:19
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    @Šime Vidas: Obviously - but I will admit that I wasn't entirely happy with the which this one isn't bit. The lack of commas elsewhere doesn't seem to me to impede legibility significantly, but I fully accept that "aside" should really have been demarcated by commas, or placed in brackets. – FumbleFingers Jan 25 '12 at 0:41

No that sentence is a run on. There are also several missing commas in what would be the sub-sentences, and past/present tense issues.

I would revise to:

They figured, since I’m a real person and I’m in the movie, that I should play myself. I didn’t even know yet that I was me in the movie, although I did know I was me but no as myself in the role. They had better let me know that I [was] am in the movie playing myself and let me see if I would be okay with being me in the movie now that I [knew] know there [was] is actually a movie with me in it.

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    All those commas are stylistically optional. There's nothing to say that any, and by implication all, can't be omitted. – FumbleFingers Jan 25 '12 at 0:16
  • @FumbleFingers What? Commas are optional in the English language? – Šime Vidas Jan 25 '12 at 0:18
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    As the english language advances, I believe it becomes less about technicality and more about clarity and concision. However, if you like to write fiction, then sure, omit all your commas. ;) – Mike Lyons Jan 25 '12 at 0:27
  • @Šime Vidas: Effectively commas are optional. That doesn't mean you should dispense with them - it just means that unless you're constrained to abide by some particular style guide that happens to define specific constructions where they should/must be used, your only motivation for using them should be that they aid legibility. I, for example, could legitimately (and quite reasonably, imho), have chosen not to include the one and only comma in the sentence before this one. – FumbleFingers Jan 25 '12 at 0:35
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    @FumbleFingers Ok, thanks for the info :) – Šime Vidas Jan 25 '12 at 1:25

That is a very "artistic" response, clearly not the most formal way of explaining yourself in normal situation.

It's questionable whether some of those me shouldn't be myself instead. I believe they should, but since as I said before it's rather a "piece of art" than "a piece of grammar," you can't really call it "improper."

All in all, I see nothing really wrong with the sentence and see it as correct, at least the syntax works and I can parse it without any trouble.

One thing that I'd change personally is that I'd start with:

So they figured that since I’m a real ...

I'm not saying the original is wrong, but I find it ambiguous or at least difficult to parse without that.

  • Well, you must know I'm a programmer, so I'm very strict when it comes to something being correct :). However, I get your point. – Šime Vidas Jan 25 '12 at 0:22

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